US Supreme Court blocks Biden mandate on large employers but upholds mandates on healthcare workers

In two separate cases before the Supreme Court regarding federal government mandates on vaccination for workers, the court decided to block one mandate and allow another to stand.

In NFID v OSHA, the justices found that the Biden Administration did not have the power to impose a mandate on large employers requiring vaccination or other protocols to protect against COVID-19. With a 5-4 decision and various opinions among the four that upheld the block, the court struck down the Administration's attempt to force employers and their 84 million employees to get vaccinated.

In his written opinion, Justice Gorsuch, along with Justices Alito and Thomas, state, “The agency (OSHA) claims the power to force 84 million Americans to receive a vaccine or undergo regular testing. By any measure, that is a claim of power to resolve a question of vast national

significance. Yet Congress has nowhere clearly assigned so much power to OSHA.”

By contrast, in the case of Biden v Missouri, the court upheld (5-4) the Secretary of Health and Human Services's (HHS) power to impose a vaccine mandate on healthcare workers involved with patients in the Medicaid and Medicare system. The court found that Congress gave the Secretary of HHS broad powers to protect citizens who are interacting with healthcare facilities under Medicaid and Medicare.

The Justices pointed to many other mandates that the Secretary has put forth that weren't being disputed. The opinion talked of a moment during oral arguments: 'Indeed, respondents do not contest the validity of this longstanding litany of health-related participation conditions. When asked at oral argument whether the Secretary could, using the very same statutory authorities at issue here, require hospital employees to wear gloves, sterilize instruments, wash their hands in a certain way and at certain intervals, and the like, Missouri answered yes: "[T]he Secretary certainly has authority to implement all kinds of infection control measures at these facilities."'

Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett dissented. In his dissent, Justice Thomas wrote that he felt that the Government had not shown that it had explicit statutory authority to mandate vaccinations.

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